Saturday, April 9, 2016

Anna Pruyn's library and her daughter Bertie's Melville story

The 1908 Catalogue of Some of the Books in the Collection of Mrs. J. V. L. Pruyn (Anna Fenn Parker) lists two books by Herman Melville: Battle-Pieces (1866), and a third edition of Melville's second book, Omoo (1847).

Mrs. Pruyn knew the author. Her daughter Huybertie Pruyn recalled that Herman Melville had addressed her mother as "Anna" when they ran into him once at the Albany home of Catherine (Kate) and Abraham Lansing. According to Huybertie, the surprised Mrs. Pruyn said:
"Why, Herman, I didn’t expect to see you."  
For the rest of Huybertie Pruyn's reminiscence, as reported by C. R. Roseberry in the Albany Times-Union, check out the melvilliana post
Huybertie Pruyn's story via "Tip" Roseberry in the Albany Times-Union also gives us a few more words to add to Hershel Parker's compilation of words Herman Melville is reported to have spoken. In another column, Roseberry mentioned that Huybertie Pruyn's Melville story was told at the 1953 dedication ceremony for the historic Melville marker in Albany. And was broadcast on a local radio program:
Mrs. Hamlin recounted on a radio program from the Albany ceremony, how she met Herman Melville at the home of “Aunt Kate” Lansing, on Washington Ave., when she was a little girl and he was an old man.”  --Albany Times-Union, July 31, 1953
Albany Times-Union, Saturday, June 27, 1953
found at Fulton History
The newspaper photo above shows Huybertie Pruyn (Mrs. Charles Hamlin) at the June 26, 1953 dedication ceremony, between Helen and Agnes Morewood (granddaughters of Herman Melville's brother Allan). And see Melville scholar William H. Gilman, standing tall behind the microphone. I guess there's little chance of finding and hearing an old audio tape of the 1953 radio broadcast.
Photo Credit: Tom Arthur - New York State Historical Markers

More on the Pruyn family from the Hudson-Mohawk Genealogy and Family Memoirs via the Schenectady Digital History Archive:
Mr. Pruyn married (second) September 7, 1865, at St. Peter's Church, Albany, by the Rt. Rev. Horatio Potter, D.D., LL.D., D.C.I., Oxon, Bishop of New York, Anna Fenn Parker, born at Delhi, New York, March 26, 1840, eldest daughter of Hon. Amasa J. Parker and his wife, Harriet Langdon (Roberts) Parker, of Albany (see Parker VII). Two children were born of this marriage:
  1. Harriet Langdon, born January 31, 1868, at Washington, D. C., married William Gorham Rice and their son, William Gorham Rice, Jr., was born December 30, 1892.
  2. Huybertie Lansing, born in Albany, New York, April 8, 1873, married Charles Summer Hamlin, of Boston; their daughter, Anna, was born October 26, 1900.
Mrs. John V. L. (Anna F. Parker) Pruyn, spent the greater part of her life in Albany. She was a woman of vigorous mental powers, of broad culture and of extended travel. She was deeply interested in Albany affairs where her house was a centre of wide hospitality. Generous by nature, she gave liberally of her means both to public and private charities. The Pruyn public library in Albany was a gift from Mrs. Pruyn and her family in memory of her husband. She died at her summer home in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, October 7, 1909. Her two daughters, Mrs. William Gorham Rice, of Albany, and Mrs. Charles S. Hamlin, of Boston, survive her.  --Schenectady Digital History Archive

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